Every movie genre has at least one film that portrays a woman’s body as dangerous, embarrassing or just inconvenient. Although some of the films in this list are beautiful and triumphant pieces of cinema, they don’t exemplify the beauty of womanhood. Many aren’t even remotely feminist. If “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” these films have extended that idea to going through puberty, getting pregnant, having her period, being attractive or existing in general. Spoilers ahead!
1. Teeth (2007), directed by Mitchell Litchenstein
There is no talking around this premise, so here goes: a young virgin who grew up next to a power plant finds out, after being sexually assaulted, that her vagina has teeth and is ready to dismember any one who tries to get in it. It’s one of the most literal examples of a movie that makes viewers afraid of women’s bodies.
2. Carrie (1976), directed by Brian de Palma
In Carrie’s very first scene, she gets her period for the first time. Of course, the other teenage girls don’t help her, as if it’s never going to happen to them. They pelt her with tampons, chanting, “Plug it up! Plug it up!” This traumatizing moment in her life fuel’s Carrie’s transformation from frail and scared girl to powerful and vindictive woman. Of course, viewers are focusing on her telekinetic powers — not the symbolism of all that blood.
3. The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin
Twelve-year-old Regan is a good kid. She is smart, kind and loves her mother. One day, she starts to change. She is cursing. Her skin changes. Her voice deepens. She starts masturbating. It’s obvious what is happening. No, not puberty: demonic possession! Friedkin’s direction, along with Linda Blair’s Regan, paints a horrific portrait of what happens with innocence is lost — in this case, to the devil.
4. The VVitch (2016), directed by Robert Eggers
If there is ever any doubt that exemplary women were treated poorly throughout history, look no further than the Salem Witch Trials. Set in the 1630s in New England, The Witch (original title: The VVitch: a New England Folktale) is based on the accounts of early colonists’ dealings with “witchcraft.” The film highlights an important and sad fact about history: how easy it was for a pubescent girl’s family to blame all the “evil” in their lives on their daughter and her changing body.
5. Let Me In (2010), directed by Matt Reeves
The American remake of Let The Right One In follows the story of Owen, a bullied kid who seeks revenge. He befriends his neighbor, Abby, a mysterious girl who only appears at night. Turns out, Abby is an ancient vampire whose guardian murders people to supply her with blood. I picked this particular version because the relationship between Abby and her guardian takes a less paternal tone. It implies that her guardian may be a former lover, and that Abby goes from one man to another to get her needs met. One piece of vampire lore plays out incredibly in this film. Vampire bodies have rules that must be followed, like that they can’t come in unless you invite them. In Let Me In, this has serious repercussions, causing her to bleed from, well, everywhere.
6. The Skin I Live In (2011), directed by Pedro Almodóvar
This chilling, beautifully shot film stars Antonio Banderas and Elana Anaya. The Skin I Live In tells the story of a once-great plastic surgeon, Robert, who loses his wife to a fiery car wreck and becomes obsessed with developing fire-resistant human skin. He experiments on a woman he keeps captive, Vera. As the story unfolds, we learn that Vera was actually Vincent, a young man who tried to rape Robert’s daughter. Robert forces gender reassignment surgery on Vincent and later rapes Vera. The film shows that being trapped in a woman’s body is the ultimate punishment.
7. Father of the Bride II (1995), directed by Chris Shyer
Horror isn’t the only genre that likes to scare us with awful tales of having a vagina; so does comedy. Father of the Bride II, starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton, focuses on the overall craziness of pregnancy. In this sequel, Martin’s just-married daughter is pregnant. In a twist, her mother is pregnant as well! So Martin has to “deal with” his wife and his daughter in the throes of gestation. The film invites us to laugh as the women demand Arctic temperatures while the man freezes. It revels in the idea that pregnant ladies are way too much to handle. Something so natural as pregnancy and childbirth brings all kinds of comedic chaos and inconvenience to a man’s life.
8. Knocked Up (2007), directed by Judd Apatow
Career-driven Alison (Katherine Heigl) becomes accidentally pregnant due to a miscommunication during a one-night stand with stoner/slacker Ben (Seth Rogan). Apatow’s raunchy yet heartfelt humor distracts viewers from the underlying message: that there are consequences to being sexual with a woman. The final scene makes a valiant attempt to desensitize viewers, but really just scared most of them.
9. Children of Men (2006), directed by Alfonso Cuarón
In the year 2027, the last person born was 18 years ago. Curaón’s dark portrayal of what happens to society when we can no longer reproduce feelings chillingly accurate. While many films portray pregnancy as a big, gross, scary inconvenience, this one shows that when women’s bodies stop being fertile, they bring about the end of humanity.